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Describing 'Geriatric Medicine' and 'Geriatric Assessment' in new ways

An opportunity to influence the language used in a project report to replace the term 'Geriatric'.

  • Thursday 31st August 2017 11:00 (1 hour)
  • Workshop
  • Influence

The internationally recognised name of a medical specialty, and the title of its key technology are now well established and contain the term “Geriatric”, the origins of which are described in a treatise by Ignatz Leo Nascher, published in 1913 entitled “Longevity and Rejuvenescence”, as follows.

“Geriatrics, from geras, old age, and iatrikos, relating to the physician, is a term I would suggest as an addition to our vocabulary to cover the same field, in old age, that is covered by the term 'paediatrics' in childhood .. . to emphasize the necessity of considering senility, and its diseases apart from maturity, and to assign to it a separate place in medicine.”

Unfortunately in the intervening century, the term “Geriatric” has acquired a derogatory meaning, when applied to old people (or indeed objects), implying uselessness and decrepitude, for example:

“Geriatric judges with 19th century social and political prejudices only bring the rule of law into disrepute.”  

“I hear and read such phrases as ‘geriatric old twit’: an expression which would hardly have sprung to the lips of the pious Aeneas.” 

Perhaps for this reason the term “Geriatric”  is not one which is liked by older people.


In the preparation of the final report for the HoW CGA project, older people attending a dissemination event and the project’s international, external steering group have challenged the use of the term 'Geriatric' and so an alternative must be considered to replace the word throughout this potentially influential report. 

This is a challenge, not least because the word appears in the name of  the health and care technology which is the subject of the report.  However it is also an opportunity as it may be possible to use the report as a launchpad for a new way of describing both “geriatricians” and what they do.

The project was commissioned as one of a pair, and our sister project (based in Oxford and Glasgow) are also prepared to consider using the same language in their report.

Voice North members are invited to contribute their ideas on how to replace the term 'Geriatric'. 

Volunteer Criteria

Anyone is able to take part in this opportunity, however places are limited.

What will I be asked to do?

You will be asked to attend a group meeting to discuss possible alternatives for the term 'geriatric'. This will last for approximately 1 hour.

When & where?

The meeting will be on Thursday 31st August, 11am-12pm.

It will take place in the Biomedical Research Building at the Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle.

Will I get anything for taking part?

 Travel expenses will be reimbursed.


  • Room 3.03, Third Floor Biomedical Research Building
  • Campus for Ageing and Vitality Newcastle University
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
  • NE4 5PL


Add a comment
  • Ian Fairclough
    10th August 2017

    Personally I like "decrepitude."

  • Ian Fairclough
    8th August 2017

    So................ blank spaces - I wonder what Alex, John & Steve wrote?

  • John Reid
    7th August 2017
  • Steve Whitley
    7th August 2017